Earthquakes Academy coach Marquis White emphasizes the value of having a balanced life to his young players.
Dreams of playing in MLS, Europe or the World Cup are fine and dandy, but if a local “superstar” falls short, he needs something to fall back on.
“The kids think that just because they’re in the Earthquakes Academy, that they’re going to be instant pros,” White said. “Like I told these kids, ‘Maybe one of you may become a pro, so our goal basically should be just trying to get into college.’ ”
White sees lots of progress in his second year in the academy. Heading into the winter break, the under-18 Quakes team boasted a 7-3 record in the Northwest Division and an attractive possession style.
Moreover, the academy recently added Stanford men’s coach Jeremy Gunn as an assistant. Gunn, an England native and the 2011 NSCAA Coach of the Year, guided the Cardinal to a 9-8-1 overall mark in 2012, his debut season, and a third-place finish in the Pac-12.
Consider Gunn another big upgrade to the academy, which also boasts veteran ex-pro player Chris Leitch as technical director.
White, a former professional player with NEC in Holland and the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution, brings much to the academy table. He is an accomplished pro, coach, teacher, and seemingly a gifted motivator. He connects with his players using straight talk, a love for the game clinging to his words.
“The one thing Steve and I keep stressing with these kids is discipline,” White said. “A lot of them lacked discipline, and it was evident, especially with the 18's. You see what’s happened since last year. They believe in the system. They have a lot more discipline in their lives and it’s translating to the field. They’re playing as a team. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re proud. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re definitely going in the right direction.”
White, who teaches physical education at Heritage High School in Brentwood, can relate to his players’ personal stories because of what he overcame growing up in Marin County.
“Soccer changed my life,” he said. “I grew up in a situation where drugs and all that stuff were in my household. When I started playing soccer, soccer was like my third sport. I just played when I went to practice and to games, and the people I hung around with changed my life. When I started seeing a different environment, it started waking me up.”
Because education wasn’t stressed in his household, he said he had to attend Santa Rosa Junior College after playing at Terra Linda High in San Rafael. Along the way, he learned that hard work, education and having a goal were keys to success.
Blessed with speed and tremendous leaping ability, White’s soccer skills were still a work in progress even after he played at USF. He signed in Holland before playing with the Santa Cruz Destroyers in Bolivia, San Francisco Seals in the A-League and in MLS.
White also has an extensive coaching background, which includes coaching Chris and Stephen Wondolowski on powerhouse De La Salle-Concord teams.
He said he tells academy players that “the soccer aspect is taken care of. Now you’ve got to take care of academics and make yourself a better person."
“I know a lot of these kids have the same type of environment that I grew up with, which wasn’t so good in the household,” he continued. “You’ve got to get out of your environment. We’re trying to get these kids that don’t have the greatest grades into two-year JCs, to get them out of the house, and just promote education. To me that’s the No. 1 goal: to get educated, and if soccer takes you there, go with it. In the long run, if you become a pro, even better.”
Many top youth players are pampered on their club teams and are shuttled to and from practice by their coaches, White said. Academy players have to train four days a week during the season, and it’s not always easy for players from working families to get there.
White believes wholeheartedly that soccer can be a great vehicle in life.
“Like I always say, I’m a universal man,” White said. “I love all colors. These kids learn from each other. Athletics is a great avenue for that, and I promote that.”